Op-Ed: How to Create Tomorrow's Conservationists

The president of The North Face on President Obama’s support of the National Park Centennial and outdoor recreation

More than any president since Roosevelt, President Obama has sustained and championed conservation and recreation. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
More than any president since Roosevelt, President Obama has sustained and championed conservation and recreation.

Theodore Roosevelt is heralded as our nation’s first “outdoorist.” His conservation ethic—manifest in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the forest service and our incredible national parks—is often quoted and celebrated as one of his greatest contributions to our nation’s public good. Dig into Teddy’s private correspondence though and you’ll see that he was equally if not more so proud of his achievements as a father. “Children…make all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison,” he wrote in his 1913 autobiography.

As a father, I certainly share that sentiment with Teddy, but I also realize that his brilliance came at the intersection of his two most important roles. This year, we have a unique opportunity to emulate and perpetuate Roosevelt’s legacy as we celebrate Father’s Day and the National Park Service Centennial. I will spend precious time with my family outdoors, re-gifting to my kids "America’s best idea." Another dad doing the same this weekend: President Barack Obama.

The First Family will explore Yosemite National Park together. More than any president since Roosevelt, President Obama has sustained and championed conservation and recreation. On behalf of The North Face and as a Yosemite Centennial Ambassador—I’d like to thank President Obama for continuing Roosevelt’s legacy and for supporting the outdoor recreation economy, which, in turn, supports local economies and communities. 

This is more important now than ever. In a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own (1) and kids 8 to 18 spend an overwhelming 53 hours a week using entertainment media (2). It is our responsibility—as parents, teachers, mentors, and leaders—to introduce more people to the outdoors so they will forge indelible bonds with their environment and, in turn, become protectors of our parks and wild spaces for generations to come. 

As we know from the Outdoor Industry Association’s Recreation Economy Report, outdoor recreation is a $646 billion industry that employs 6.1 million Americans—more than oil and gas, more than real estate and more than the finance and insurance sectors. And outdoor recreation delivers so much more than dollars and jobs. We know that 142 million Americans—one in two—have meaningful experiences outside each year.  But as we learn more about the power of outdoor recreation to keep people and communities happy and healthy, to reverse the obesity epidemic and slash healthcare costs, to revitalize urban areas and to provide inspiration to at-risk youth, we’re learning that outdoor recreation must be a part of our nation’s dialog and domestic policy. Imagine how different our world might look if every American—not just one in two—had the opportunity to enjoy our natural playgrounds each year.

This is why The North Face supports the Obama administration’s Every Kid in a Park program. Additionally, nearly 90 percent of our 2016 Explore Fund—a grant giving program for nonprofits supporting outdoor exploration—went to organizations that activate youth engagement in parks. 

In tandem with Obama’s other actions, including reforms that would help streamline the permitting process for guides and outfitters who serve as many Americans’ ambassadors to outdoor adventure, our industry is eager to continue inviting new outdoorists into our fold and, in turn, healthy communities into our national economy.

On behalf of longtime and soon-to-be outdoorists everywhere, I encourage each of you to join me in passing one of our nation’s greatest gifts onto our children. 

Happy Father’s Day!

*Todd Spaletto is president of The North Face.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
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Filed To: PoliticsYosemite National Park
Lead Photo: Alex Brandon/AP
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